07 August 2009

Gusmao government condemns former Ombudsman as politically biased

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF TIMOR-LESTE IV CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT MEDIA RELEASE Dili- August 7, 2009 Statement By The Spokesperson of the IV Constitutional Government, The Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers False report delivered by outgoing Provedor

The Provedor (Ombudsman) for Justice and Human Rights, Mr. Sebastião Ximenes is at the centre of a scandal after he delivered a report on July 2, 2009 direct to the media, with conclusions derived from half-baked information, incomplete investigations and incorrect citing of legal procurement functions. This report is from 2007 and he decided to deliver it himself after his mandate is over.

The Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers and Spokesman of the IV Constitutional Government Ágio Pereira said “Our Provedor for Human Rights and Justice was a candidate of Fretilin and ‘elected’ to the office by the absolute majority controlled Parliament during former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri’s term. Ximenes was handpicked by Alkatiri’s Fretilin faction.”

The report by the Provedor was considered by the Government to be a politically motivated attack which had no merit or facts to support the conclusions. The report was disseminated to Fretilin and the media before the Ministers and relevant Government agencies were issued copies or had the sacrosanct right of reply.

The Government considers this is part of mounting evidence supporting a possible strong case of malpractice and maladministration. The substance of the investigations and reports so far made by the Provedor need to be analysed to ascertain whether the reports are a product of competent investigation or only half-baked stories. The fact that until the end of his tenure, no one is yet to be punished by a Court as a result of the Provedor’s investigations and reports, may just speak by itself.

In this report to damage the ministers of Finance and Justice one can see yet another example of poor performance of the Office of the Provedor. He did not interview the Minister of Finance before the accusations were made, which is considered by the Government corrupt methodology in the first place. Nor did the investigative team obtain all the relevant documents associated with the contracts in question from the respective Ministries.

The Provedor’s citing of relevant procurement laws were incorrect as were The Provedor’s assertions of the company owners of UGC. The business registry clearly cites two Malaysian directors, one with 70% ownership and the second with 30% ownership.

Payments were made to UGC in good faith on the information provided to the Ministries. If the Providor’s allegations are to be warranted, his own conclusion in paragraph 5, testifies that the ministers were clearly not irresponsible after all:

‘The Prison Director and the company conspired regarding the information that the Prison Director provided in her reporting to the Ministry of Justice that the company had performed 100% of the project works and that it did so satisfactorily ...."

It should be noted that the works on both prisons have been completed with good results, contradicting what the Provedor has ascertained in his report.

This is not the first time the Provedor has been found to omit facts. In August 2008, the Provedor issued a similar report on the activities of the Revenue Service and recommended that Mr. Angelo de Almeida, the Tax Commissioner from August 2004 to September 2006 under the Fretilin Government, be charged for ‘abuse of authority and corruption’.

The findings were delivered to the then newly-appointed Minister of Finance, Mrs. Emilia Pires, who had her in house legal team launch an independent review. The review found that Mr. Angelo de Almeida had acted on the powers given to him as Tax Commissioner and that no corruption had taken place. Furthermore, the legal advisors noted “It is clear from the Report that the Provedor relied heavily on the evidence of the appeals officer who complained of the Commissioner reversing his decisions and claiming that this violated the law.”

At the time Minister Pires was lauded for providing a fair, impartial and thorough investigation to the
former Fretilin public servant.

Pereira closed by saying, “While we understand the Office of the Provedor is overworked, we are bewildered by the slanderous conclusions which seem to be formed without supporting documentation or due diligence in the investigation process, but with a clear purpose of discrediting the Government and two key Ministers, the same Ministers who have been Fretilin targets for almost a year now.”

The Government respects the process of investigation to ascertain ALL the facts and we welcome any further fair and impartial investigation. What we will not accept is misrepresentations and distortions of facts to discredit the Government from what is supposed to be an ‘independent watchdog’, an important Office for our country.”

The purpose of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão’s Government Anti-Corruption Commission is to ensure Timor-Leste has an independent institution to handle corruption cases free from political bias or interference. ENDS

Contact: Ágio Pereira +670 723 0011; E-mail: agiopereira@cdm.gov.tl

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